Unlike ribonucleoprotein complexes that have a highly ordered overall architecture, such as the ribosome, yeast telomerase appears to be much more loosely constrained. Here, we investigate the importance of positioning of the Ku subunit within the 1157-nt yeast telomerase RNA (TLC1). Deletion of the 48-nt Ku-binding hairpin in TLC1 RNA (tlc1Δ48) reduces telomere length, survival of cells with gross chromosomal rearrangements, and de novo telomere addition at a broken chromosome end. To test the function of Ku at novel positions in the telomerase RNP, we reintroduced its binding site into tlc1Δ48 RNA at position 446 or 1029. We found that Ku bound to these repositioned sites in vivo and telomere length increased slightly, but statistically significantly. The ability of telomerase to promote survival of cells with gross chromosomal rearrangements by healing damaged chromosome arms was also partially restored, whereas the kinetics of DNA addition to a specific chromosome break was delayed. Having two Ku sites in TLC1 caused progressive hyperelongation of a variable subset of telomeres, consistent with Ku's role in telomerase recruitment to chromosome ends. The number of Ku-binding sites in TLC1 contributed to telomerase RNA abundance in vivo but was only partially responsible for telomere length phenotypes. Thus, telomerase RNA levels and telomere length regulation can be modulated by the number of Ku sites in telomerase RNA. Furthermore, there is substantial flexibility in the relative positioning of Ku in the telomerase RNP for native telomere length maintenance, although not as much flexibility as for the essential Est1p subunit.
Zappulla, David C.; Goodrich, Karen J.; Arthur, Julian R.; Gurski, Lisa A.; Denham, Elizabeth M.; Stellwagen, Anne E.; and Cech, Thomas R., "Ku Can Contribute to Telomere Lengthening in Yeast at Multiple Positions in the Telomerase RNP" (2010). Chemistry & Biochemistry Faculty Contributions. 23.